Imagining home

Visual artist Jonathan Joven presents blueprints of dream houses with his latest exhibit ‘Not to Scale’

A lot goes into making a house. It requires good capital, a search for the proper location, and manpower to turn a simple sketch into reality. Shelter is a key factor to survival, a basic human need. Building a home is not just a goal that starts when one enters adulthood but also a dream that begins in the imagination of the young child.

When he lived in Smokey Mountain in Tondo, Manila when he was young, artist Jonathan Joven often imagined finding a way out. This idea eventually became the subject of his artworks, and with his latest exhibit dubbed “Not to Scale,” he paints children as architects with miniature houses in their hands, a symbol of a dream that has yet to come true. 

In “Not to Scale,” Jonathan plays with the theme of “space and memory.” Through his play on landscapes and waterscapes, he aims to present memory of places that will soon be spots dedicated to modern housing and industrialization. He also explored spacing in his works to play with the elements’ proportions.

HOMEMAKER Featured artist Jonathan Joven

“This is about the young ones’ dreams of having a home where, despite the hindrances, they continue to strive to achieve their goal,” Jonathan says. “We cannot measure their dream or their abilities until they have imagined it in their mind and built it in the future.”

'We cannot measure their dream or their abilities until they have imagined it in their mind and built it in the future.’

To make this exhibition come to life, Jonathan crafted small house sculptures out of wood blocks and corrugated boards, making the creative process different from his past shows. The idea of family also plays in the process of building his works with his wife and children helping him with the miniatures. All in all, it took him over five months to complete the pieces for the exhibition.

“I asked for their help in making some of the sculptures,” he says. “It was a different experience building a house, literally and figuratively, with them. It will be one of the priceless memories that we will keep within our family.”

Much like in his past works, layering is present in Jonathan’s “Not to Scale.” For the first layer, he used acrylic paints on canvas for the background. He then glued the repurposed tracing paper on top of it, giving a translucent effect on the painting, and topped it with a final layer of oil painting.

What makes some of the pieces even more special is that he also used his children as models for the painting, which can be seen in the “Visionary,” “Goal,” and “Intention” pieces. While the mountains, fields, and riverside seen in the background stand for Mother Earth’s creation, a way for him to make the government and viewers aware of sustainability and the effects of overpopulation on nature.

“I always keep myself inspired. I always keep my experiences and observations in mind. I always try to present through my works the stories that build us and our society,” Jonathan says. “My goal in creating art is to depict a narrative of what’s happening today that will touch people, whether it is a question or an answer about what we are experiencing in our surroundings these days.”